Sps Agreement Non-Discrimination

The decision to start the Uruguay Round trade negotiations was taken after years of public debate, including within national governments. The decision to negotiate an agreement on the application of sanitary and plant health measures was taken in 1986 at the beginning of the cycle. The SPS negotiations were opened to the 124 governments that participated in the Uruguay Round. Many governments were represented by their food safety or animal health officers. Negotiators also drew on the expertise of international technical organizations such as FAO, the code and the OIE. The WTO secretariat has prepared this text to promote public understanding of the SPS agreement. There are no plans to provide for a legal interpretation of the agreement. The two agreements have a number of common elements, including fundamental non-discrimination obligations and similar requirements for prior notification of proposed measures and the creation of information offices (« Information Points »). However, many of the substantive rules are different. Thus, both agreements promote the application of international standards.

However, under the SPS agreement, the only justifications for non-application of these standards for food safety and protection of animal/vegetable health are scientific arguments arising from an assessment of potential health risks. On the other hand, under the OBT agreement, governments may decide that international standards are not appropriate for other reasons, including fundamental technological problems or geographical factors. Specific plant health and protection requirements are most frequently applied on a bilateral basis between trading countries. Developing countries benefit from the SPS agreement, which provides an international framework for health and plant health arrangements between countries, regardless of their political and economic strength or technological capacity. In the absence of such an agreement, developing countries could be at a disadvantage if they challenge unjustified trade restrictions. In addition, governments must accept, under the SPS agreement, imported products that meet their safety requirements, whether they are the result of simple, less sophisticated methods or advanced technologies. Strengthening technical assistance to developing countries in the area of food security and animal and plant health, both bilateral and international, is also part of the SPS Convention. During the Tokyo Multilateral Trade Negotiations Round (1974-1979), an agreement on technical barriers to trade was negotiated (the 1979 tBT agreement or « standardization code ») (see note 2). Although not originally designed to regulate sanitary and plant health measures, the agreement covered technical requirements arising from food safety and plant health and plant health measures, including pesticide residue limits, inspection requirements and labelling.

Governments that were members of the 1979 OBT agreement agreed to apply relevant international standards (for example. B those developed by the Food Safety Code), unless they felt that these standards would not adequately protect health. They also agreed to inform other governments, through the GATT secretariat, of technical regulations that are not based on international standards. The 1979 TBT agreement contained provisions for the settlement of commercial disputes arising from the application of food security and other technical restrictions. One of the provisions of the SPS agreement is the obligation for members to facilitate the provision of technical assistance to developing countries, either through relevant international organizations or at the bilateral level.